On SAGE Insight: Election Fraud, Perceived Fraud, and Protesting in Nigeria

Article title: Fraud Is What People Make of It: Election Fraud, Perceived Fraud, and Protesting in Nigeria

From Journal of Conflict Resolution

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Why do fraudulent elections encourage protesting? Scholars suggest that information about fraud shapes individuals’ beliefs and propensity to protest. Yet these accounts neglect the complexity of opinion formation and have not been tested at the individual level. We distinguish between the mobilizing effects of actual incidents of election fraud and individuals’ subjective perceptions of fraud.

In this study researchers provided a first-cut analysis of reported fraud, fraud perception, and protesting at the election country-year level in Africa. While it is argued theoretical mechanisms need to be assessed at the microlevel, authors aim to select a case that fits existing arguments and macro-level evidence. Nigeria is a useful test case because it is not a consolidated democracy: it frequently experiences electoral manipulation and contention over electoral outcomes. In 2007, Nigerian citizens voted in state assembly elections on April 14 and general assembly and presidential elections on April 21. The two largest parties were the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition party All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). The PDP won in most states and its presidential candidate Umaru Yar’Adua received 69.8 percent of votes compared to 18.7 percent for ANPP candidate Muhammadu Buhari. Election fraud was widespread in both elections and involved both parties, as described in the EU report.

This paper distinguishes between the mobilizing effects of reported and observational (and perhaps relatively more objective) measures of election fraud and individuals’ perception (and hence relatively more subjective) measures of fraud. The results from the 2007 elections in Nigeria show that only fraud perceptions have a positive and consistent effect on protesting, whereas proximity to fraud documented by observers does not affect mobilization. Fraud perception thus has strong and consistent effects on mobilization at the individual level in Nigeria.

Abstract

Why do fraudulent elections encourage protesting? Scholars suggest that information about fraud shapes individuals’ beliefs and propensity to protest. Yet these accounts neglect the complexity of opinion formation and have not been tested at the individual level. We distinguish between the mobilizing effects of actual incidents of election fraud and individuals’ subjective perceptions of fraud. While rational updating models would imply that both measures similarly affect mobilization, we argue that subjective fraud perceptions are more consistent predictors of protesting, also being shaped by attitudes, information, and community networks. Our empirical analysis uses geo-referenced individual-level data on fraud events, fraud perception, and protesting from the 2007 Nigerian elections. Our analysis yields two main findings: proximity to reported fraud has no effect on protesting and citizens perceiving elections as fraudulent are consistently more likely to protest, and more so if embedded in community networks.

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Article details
Fraud Is What People Make of It: Election Fraud, Perceived Fraud, and Protesting in Nigeria
Ursula Daxecker, Jessica Di Salvatore, Andrea Ruggeri
First Published February 4, 2019 Research Article
DOI: 10.1177/0022002718824636
Journal of Conflict Resolution


     
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